BEST POLITICAL ADVOCACY GROUP
The Caucus has once again been named OutSmart’s Best Political Advocacy Group for 2022. This should come as no surprise, as the Caucus has, for the last several decades, led the way in holding elected officials accountable to the LGBTQ community and supporting queer candidates—an important task in a state like Texas.
“The Caucus originally started in 1975 as a grassroots organization dedicated to serving the LGBTQ+ community,” says Caucus President Jovon Alfon B. “LuJack” Tyler. “When no one else was advocating for us and giving us a seat at the table, we took it upon ourselves to ensure that our voices were heard and that our community was served. Throughout our history, we have never strayed from that. We have consistently shown up in political spaces and demanded that the LGBTQ+ community be given our due.”
Tyler himself had been involved with the Caucus before he was elected to lead the organization in 2020. He served as a board member (the organization’s youngest ever) from 1994 to 1998, working alongside other Caucus greats like Lane Lewis, Terri Richardson, and Pat Gandy. He also carries on the legacy of his mother, former Houston mayor Annise Parker, who led the Caucus during her early years as a community activist.
“The Caucus continues to be one of the most sought-after and well-respected endorsements in Houston’s political landscape. We ensure that the LGBTQ+ community not only has a voice, but that our elected officials actually listen. That is what allows us to continue affecting meaningful change for the LGBTQ+ community—whether that be striking down anti-trans laws in the Texas legislature or ensuring better monkeypox vaccine distribution locally,” says Tyler.
Indeed, the Caucus has earned its reputation as a must-have endorsement for progressive candidates. Voters of all types turn to the Caucus to guide them in casting their ballots, and it is often those pro-LGBTQ votes that can make or break a campaign. In traditionally purple Houston, wins and losses are often determined by very small margins.
But more than political clout, the Caucus also provides an opportunity for community growth. Former Caucus president Fran Watson recalls how the Caucus was there for her during some tough political times.
“During my presidency in 2017, there was pain. We had just lost the HERO [referendum at the polls]. The Pulse nightclub massacre happened. I was proud to be surrounded by people who all came together during such trying times,” says Watson.
The Caucus has endured much, and continues to fight against the headwinds of an increasingly far-right Texas legislative agenda. What keeps the Caucus going is Houston’s LGBTQ community that encourages everyone to take part in the movement.
An important focus for Tyler has been diversifying the Caucus leadership team. In June, the Caucus elected the first Black trans woman, Joëlle Espeut, to the board, and in July they added more trans representation on the board with René Mendiola’s election.
They have also actively recruited more women and gender-expansive individuals to serve on the wider leadership team so that the Caucus leadership better reflects the diversity of the community. But there is always room to do more.
“This may sound simple, but what we really need is more young folks,” Tyler notes. “We are blessed to have extremely seasoned Caucus members that have been active for decades. Many of them lived through critical parts of Houston’s LGBTQ+ history and were around for events like Anita Bryant, Town Meeting 1, and the first Pride parade. We need younger members [that we] can pass the baton to.
“Don’t get me wrong—we do have some amazing younger members that are extremely talented in what they do and what they bring to the organization. But we need more to ensure the work and the legacy of the Caucus lives on.”
For information, visit thecaucus.org.
BEST POLITICAL ADVOCACY GROUP
Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus
Finalists: Equality Texas, HRC Houston, Legacy Takes Action, Victory Fund
FAVORITE LGBTQ PHILANTHROPIC ORGANIZATION
The Montrose Center
Finalists: Bunnies on the Bayou,
Dalton DeHart Photographic Foundation, The Empire of the Royal Sovereign Imperial Court of the Single Star ERSICSS, The Mahogany Project, Texas Gay Rodeo Association
FAVORITE LOCAL LGBTQ COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION
The Montrose Center
Finalists: Bunnies on the Bayou, Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Lambda Center, The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Out For Education
FAVORITE LGBTQ SOCIAL GROUP
Pride Bike Ride Houston
Finalists: AmistadesHTX, Bayou City Pups, EPAH, Diana Foundation, Hatch Youth, Houston Gaymers, Houston Queer Camp and Events, Out Professionals
FAVORITE TRANS SUPPORT ORGANIZATION
Transgender Education Network Texas (TENT)
Finalists: FLAS Trans Center, The Mahogany Project, Monica Roberts Resource Center, The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Organización Latina de Trans en Texas (OLTT), Save Our Sisters United, Trans Legal Aid Clinic of Texas, Transmasculine Alliance Houston
FAVORITE PLACE TO WORSHIP
Bering Church (UCC)
Finalists: Congregation Brith Shalom, Congregation Or Ami, Congregation Shma Koleinu, Kindred, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, Unity Church of Houston
FAVORITE LGBTQ SPORTS CLUB OR LEAGUE
Montrose Softball League Association
Finalists: Houston Tennis Club, Houston Women’s Softball League, Lone Star Volleyball, Pride Sports Houston, Space City Rugby
FAVORITE HIV/AIDS SUPPORT ORGANIZATION
AIDS Foundation Houston
Finalists: AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Avenue 360 Health and Wellness – Midtown, Bering Omega Community Services, Legacy Community Health – Montrose Clinic, The Montrose Center, The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Positive Women’s Network, PWA Holiday Charities, Ryan White Planning Council
FAVORITE LGBTQ BENEFIT EVENT OF THE YEAR
Bunnies on the Bayou
Finalists: Black Queer AF Festival, Mint Julep, Out for Good, Show Up & Out for Trans Youth (TENT), Victory Fund Brunch
BEST HOUSTON CORPORATE LGBTQ DIVERSITY GROUP
Finalist: Accenture Houston Pride ERG, Amegy LGBTQ+ ERG, Emerson Automation Solutions, MDA Employee Group
LOCAL BUSINESS MOST SUPPORTIVE OF THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY
Pearl Bar (tie)
Finalists: Dessert Gallery Bakery & Cafe, Eagle Houston, Hawthorne Capital, H-E-B
NATIONAL BUSINESS MOST SUPPORTIVE OF THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY
Finalists: Bank of America, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Wells Fargo
BEST COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY
University of Houston
Finalists: Houston Community College, Lone Star College, Prairie View A&M University, Rice University, Texas A&M University, University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)
FAVORITE PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM
Finalists: Houston Dash, Houston Dynamo, Houston Rockets, Houston SaberCats Rugby, Houston Texans
BEST LOCAL LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE
Finalists: Montrose Star, Spectrum South
BEST LOCAL LGBTQ ONLINE RESOURCE
JD Doyle Archives
Finalists: Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Lambda Center, The Montrose Center, OutSmart, The Ryan White Planning Council Blue Book
BEST NATIONAL LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE
Finalist: Instinct magazine
BEST NATIONAL LGBTQ ONLINE RESOURCE
JD Doyle Archives
Finalists: Lambda Center, OutProfessionals.org, TransAdvocate.com, The Trevor Project
FAVORITE NATIONAL LGBTQ ORGANIZATION
Human Rights Campaign
Finalists: Lambda Legal, LGBTQ Victory Fund, Metropolitan Community Churches, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Out Professionals, Pride Portraits
For a full list of winners, go here.
This article appears in the October 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.